On September 29-30 the Michigan-based Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty launched the Italian language edition of its DVD series PovertyCure. All six episodes were shown during a two-day private screening to students and faculty of the Pontifical Urban College, a seminary for developing world nations inside Vatican territory, as part of its internal pastoral formation program.
Chairman of the PovertyCure Advisory Council and the film’s director, Michael Matheson Miller, hosted the premier with the Acton Institute’s Rome office director, Kishore Jayabalan. The seminary’s rector, Msgr. Vincenzo Viva, moderated discussion while encouraging lively debate among 140 seminarians and formation staff in attendance from countries such as Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Egypt.
The energetic series features original high-definition footage and colorful graphics while compiling frank testimony from entrepreneurs, investors, religious leaders and development economics experts working in Africa, Latin American and Asia.
Beginning with the episodes “Charity that Hurts” and “The Entrepreneurial Calling”, the series challenges conventional thinking about poverty and reframes the debate around a core principle of Judeo-Christian anthropology: the creative capacity of persons – made in the image of God – to solve their own problems and improve conditions for human flourishing.
Discussion centered on topics such as political corruption, the effectiveness of foreign aid, the consequences of farm subsidies in industrialized nations on developing world agriculture, paternalism, the correlations between demographics and poverty, and secular humanitarianism versus religiously inspired charity.
Students also commented on the “types” of poverty in developed and developing countries, while Michael Matheson Miller helped clarify this observation by linking “the breakdown of the family, social engineering and the lack of subsidiarity that often accompany the modern welfare state” to poverty in America and Europe, while in the developing world “poor people must face very different challenges: the lack of institutions of justice, exclusion from networks of productivity and exchange, crony capitalism of the foreign-aid industry, and a host of problems related to the rule of law and private property rights.”
In his concluding remarks, Miller said some of the goals of the DVD series are to help create discussion, challenge the status quo, and remind us that “we must connect the virtues of charity and justice to the virtue of prudence.” He said we are called to “have a heart” for the poor, but we must also “have a mind” for the poor.
Miller encouraged the future and present religious leadership in attendance to draw inspiration from Catholic Social Teaching underscoring Benedict XVI’s reminder that “charity without truth degenerates into sentimentality.” He also echoed Pope Francis’s exhortation that the poor must not become the simply the objects of our charity and aid, but must be protagonists in their own story of development.
PovertyCure is the fruit of three years of production and has screened internationally in 20 countries, including in Congo, Kenya, Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela, Haiti, India, Cambodia, Spain, England, Thailand, and Hong Kong. The DVD series is currently also available in French and Spanish foreign language editions.
Michael Severance is Operations Manager at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Rome